Skip to main content


  • Stefan Pohlit

During the 1980s, Julien Jalâl Ed-Dine Weiss, founder of the Al-Kindi ensemble of Aleppo, invented a qānūn in just intonation with which he attempted to solve a major discrepancy between the theory and practice of maqām-scales. Weiss objected to the introduction of Western standards, observing that they distort the significance of interval ratios and prevent a comparative understanding of the modal system as a transnational phenomenon. In the twentieth century, the implementation of equal-semitone temperament emerged simultaneously with a notable invasion of sociological criteria into musical inquiry. The polarity observed between westernisation and tradition can be seen most visibly in the present search for identity amongst Middle- and Near-Eastern musicians, but this schismogenic process can also be observed in the history of the Western avant-garde, where microtonal explorations have been halted in favour of extra-musical conceptuality. While cross-cultural musicians are faced with a new climate of distrust, it seems most likely that the principles that draw us apart may originate in the very patterns of thought in which our notion of culture operates. Weiss's tuning system may serve as a helpful tool to foster a new and universal epistemology of tone, bridging and transcending the apparent contradictions between the two spheres.

Hide All

1 Stokes, Martin, ‘Music and the Global Order’, Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004), p. 67 .

2 Pohlit, Stefan, ‘Julien Jalâl Ed-Dine Weiss: A Novel Proposal for the Middle-Eastern Qānūn’, Analytical Approaches to World Music Journal 2, no. 1 (2012), pp. 4986 .

3 Weiss, Julien B. J. and Pohlit, StefanDivisions of the Apotome on the Middle-Eastern Qānūn’ in Mikrotonalität. Praxis und Utopie, ed. Walter, Caspar Johannes and Pätzold, Cordula (Stuttgart: Schott, 2014), pp. 212–15.

4 Marcus, Scott, ‘The Interface between Theory and Practice: Intonation in Arab Music’, Asian Music 24, no. 2 (1993), pp. 3958 .

5 D'Erlanger, Rodolphe, La Musique Arabe V (Paris: Geuthner, 2001 (1935)), p. 20 , fig. 6.

6 Yavuzoğlu, Nail, 21. Yüzyılda Türk Müziği Teorisi (Istanbul: Pan, 2012).

7 Ozan Yarman, 79-Tone Tuning Theory for Turkish Maqam Music as a Solution to the Non-Conformance between Current Model and Practice (PhD diss., İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi, 2008), p. 93.

8 Signell, Karl Lloyd, Makam: Modal Practice in Turkish Art Music (Sarasota: Usul Editions, 2008 (1977)), pp. 41, 4445 ; and Özkan, İsmail Hakkı, Türk Mûsıkîsi Nazariyatı ve Usûlleri (İstanbul/TR: Ötüken, 2006 (1982)), pp. 38, 62.

9 Ernest. MacClain, G., Meditations Through the Quran: Tonal Images in an Oral Culture (York Beach, ME: Nicolas Hays, 1981), pp. 7890 .

10 Ernest. MacClain, G., The Pythagorean Plato. Prelude to the Song Itself (York Beach, ME: Nicholas Hays, 1978), pp. 78–9.

11 Said, Edward, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979), p. 108 .

12 Bateson, Gregory, ‘Culture Contact and Schismogenesis’ in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 2000 (1936)) p. 64 .

13 Bateson, ‘Culture Contact’, p. 68.

14 Lévi-Strauss, Claude, Tristes Tropiques (Paris: Plon, 1955), p. 486 .

15 Aydın, Yılmaz, Türk Beşleri (Ankara: Müzik Ansiklopedisi, 2003), p. 67 .

16 Gökalp, Ziya, Türkçülüğün Esasları, (Istanbul: Toka, 2002 (1923)), pp. 147ff.

17 Schoenberg, Arnold, Theory of Harmony, trans. Carter, Roy E. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010 (1911)), pp. 383ff.

18 Adorno, Theodor. W., Philosophie der neuen Musik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2000 (1958)).

19 Hakan Ulus, ‘Nehmt die Musik wieder ernst! Zur Lage der Darmstädter Ferienkurse 2016’, Musiktexte 151 (November, 2016), p. 94.

20 Lehmann, Harry, ‘Avantgarde heuteMusik und Ästhetik 38 (April 2006), p. 34 .

21 Adorno, Philosophie der neuen Musik, p. 20.

22 Langner, Gerald, ‘Temporal Processing of Periodic Signals in the Auditory System: Neuronal Representation of Pitch, Timbre, and Harmonicity’, Zeitschrift für Audiologie 46, no. 1 (2007), pp. 821 .

23 Lehmann, Harry, Gehaltsästhetik: Eine Kunstphilosophie (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2016)

24 Kayser, Hans, Der hörende Mensch (Stuttgart/D: Engel u. Co., 1993 (1930)), p.79f.

25 Kayser, Der hörende Mensch, p. 86, fig. XXVII.

26 Kayser, Der hörende Mensch, p. 89f.

27 Lehman, Gehaltsästhetik, p. 9.

28 Small, Christopher, Musicking. The Meanings of Performing and Listening (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1998).

29 Langner, ‘Temporal Processing’, p. 21.

30 Langner, ‘Temporal Processing’, p. 11.

31 Celan, Paul, ‘Der Meridian: Rede anlässlich der Verleihung des Georg-Büchner-Preises am 22. Oktober 1960’, Gesammelte Werke in sieben Bänden, Vol. III (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986), p. 192 .

The author acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Jack Adler-McKean in preparing this article for publication.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0040-2982
  • EISSN: 1478-2286
  • URL: /core/journals/tempo
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed